Navy veteran of WWII, local and international businessman, aviator, and inventor, R. W. (Dick) Foote was born in Providence in 1919.
Foote’s successful business career followed his service as a Naval Aviator and test pilot during World War II. He was also instrumental in the development of the first “anti-blackout” or “pressure suit”, the forerunner to today’s NASA spacesuit, credited with saving the lives of many WWII fighter pilots.
He soloed in 1936 and received his commercial pilot’s license in 1937. He dropped out of college to enlist, and was commissioned as a Naval Aviator in January 1941.
Foote joined Chance-Vought in October, 1942, and became the fifth test pilot to fly the F4U-1 Corsair. One of his proudest moments was personally instructing Charles Lindbergh in the Corsair, and having a private dinner with Mr. Lindbergh that evening.
In 1943 he joined General Motors and became Chief Experimental Test Pilot on the FM-2 “Wildcat” fighter. Foote flew comparative evaluation flight tests on 15 different fighters including the Japanese Zero, British Spitfire, Mosquito, and Firefly, as well as the Bell P-59, the first jet fighter built in the United States.
Dick’s passion for flying did not abate after the war. He participated in the 1949 Cleveland Air Races, piloted his own P-51 “Mustang” in the 1970 Cape May, NJ Air Races and the Reno, NV Air Races with his North American AT-6.
In 1954 he moved his family to Nassau and flew for one year as captain-pilot on a Grumman Goose amphibian seaplane ferrying passengers throughout the islands for Bahamas Airways, then a division of BOAC.
In 1978 he formed Warplanes International Airshows, a group of pilot owners of WWII fighters, bombers and trainers that performed one of first choreographed re-enactments of famous air battles of WWII at air shows in the eastern US and Canada.
By the time he was 85, he was living in Port Orange, FL where he regularly flew his privately owned FM-2 Wildcat, Bushby Midget Mustang, Cessna 210 and Piper Cheyenne aircraft. Dick passed away at the age of 89 on January 17, 2009.
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